South Washington County school district adds buses with seat belts

Updated: September 03, 2019 06:57 AM

South Washington County schools are beginning to phase in buses with seat belts into their school district. The district has ten new school buses with seat belts so far.

The seat belts can't be added to old school buses because of infrastructure, so every time an old bus retires, its replacement will now have this safety option.

School bus drivers are now trained on the new procedures. The training includes practice drills so students know how to quickly take off their seat belts in case of an emergency. 

But school district feels the seat belts will also add another benefit: behavioral management. 

"Really we envision school transportation to look different, it's not going to be a chaotic situation with kids jumping from seat to seat, turned around in their seats or otherwise misbehaving because they have that structure now that's their designated spot and they should stay buckled up," said Andy Smith, assistant director of transportation operations. 

By 2030, every school bus in the district is expected to have seat-belts. For these school district employees who also have school-aged children, the bus upgrades bring them peace of mind. 

"I do think this is worth the cost," said Carrie Olson, director of transportation operations. "I think added safety and student management for our drivers is absolutely worth the cost."

With all of the tradeoffs, the buses with seat belts will cost about one penny per student per day.

"And when you look at the details of other crashes ... they're proven that a seat belt would have helped," Smith said.

There are also seat belt cutters on both ends of the buses in case of emergencies. The buses with seat belts will be used for field trips and also rotated through the elementary, middle school and high school routes. 

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article stated the transition to have all buses with seat belts would be completed by 2020. The transition is expected to take about 10-11 years. Therefore, by 2030, every bus in the district is expected to have seat belts.

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Crystal Bui

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